FuJET- An Inside Look to the 2014 Hokkaido Trip, Part 8- Getting Around Sapporo City

So you have your list of things that you want to see and do. Good. The next step– figuring out how to get there. In this instalment, we’ll take a quick gander on how to get around Sapporo City itself. Sapporo may be the easiest of all of Japan’s cities to navigate. Unlike many of the other big Japanese cities, Sapporo is laid out in a grid-style system with city blocks and uses an understandable naming scheme when it comes to addresses. For example, our hotel’s address is Odori Nishi 15chome… We are located west of Odori Park, block 15. Pretty straightforward!

There are several methods of getting around Sapporo including a subway and tram line, JR trains, and local city buses.
There are a few discount tickets for transportation that are available to us during our visit to Sapporo and Hokkaido. On weekdays and non-holiday days, Subway 1-Day cards, which allow unlimited subway use for 1 day (go figure!), are available for 800 yen. However, on the weekends and public holidays, the same ticket is available for a discounted price of 500 yen! A Combination 1-day pass is also available for 1,000 yen. It grants you a day of unlimited use on Sapporo’s subway, tram, and city buses operated by the JR Hokkaido, Chuo, and Jotetsu bus companies. There are also prepaid cards available for purchase and use with local transportation.

Kkitaca's Mascot
Kitaca’s Mascot

These include the Kitaca card— Hokkaido’s version of Suica. The Kitaca card costs 2,000 yen to purchase, which includes a 1,500 yen fare charge to your card and a 500 yen card fee. However, if you already have a Suica or PASMO card, you can use them wherever Kitaca is accepted! Kitaca itself can be used on JR trains in Hokkaido and the Sapporo subway and tram system. Sapporo’s subway also has their own card, the Sapica, which is only good for the Sapporo subway and city buses. Sapica can’t be used for JR lines or outside of Hokkaido. Sapica has limited compatability with Suica and PASMO at best so it is advised that if you don’t already have a PASMO or Suica card, you should purchase a Kitaca card instead of Sapica (beside, Kitaca has a cuter mascot).

In 1971, the year before the 1972 Olympic games held in Sapporo, the Sapporo City Subway system was installed. The Sapporo City subway consists of three lines– the green Nanbokusen line (North<->South), the blue Tohosen line (North<->East), and the orange Tozaisen line (East<->West). The subway’s two main hubs are Sapporo and Odori station. At Sapporo Station, all of the subway lines meet with the JR Rail line. The Odori and Susukino stations connect with the city’s tram on the street level. Tickets for the subway range from 200-360 yen, depending on how far you are travelling, with trains running from 6am through midnight. You can also check out subway train times on the go using Hyperdia. A few variations of maps of Sapporo’s different rail lines have been included in the gallery above. Find out which one suits your purposes best.

Nanbokusen (Makomanai for Asabu)
Tozaisen (Miyanosaw for Shin-saporo)
Tohosen (Sakaemachi for Fukuzumi)

220px-Sapporo_streetcar_8521Sapporo also has a tram(street car) network that has been in operation for over 100 years. While its lines have diminished with the prevalence of cars and the opening of the subway line, it’s still an inexpensive and easy way to travel around parts of the city. The trams run every 7-8 minutes normally and ever 3 minutes during the weekends of peak periods in the city (ie- the snow festival). It costs 170 yen to ride the tram and you can pay with cash or you can use Kitaca/Suica/Pasmo. You can find the tram timetables here (Japanese).

Sapporo has city buses to help chart you off between point A and point B. The buses are operated by 3 separate companies– The JR Hokkaido Bus company, the Chuo Bus, and the Jotetsu bus. Both JR Hokkaido and Chuo bus companies offer buses that connect Sapporo to other cities within Hokkaido. The Chuo bus specifically offers bus-tour-packages to some of Hokkaido’s more popular attractions in addition to cheap round trip bus-ski lift packages between Sapporo and Niseko. (More information on these packages can be read about here and will be further detailed in our Ski/Snowboard article). The Jotetsu bus company offers special tickets to local Jozankei onsen that you can read about here.

Various Bus Routes & Maps (Japanese&English):
Jotetsu Bus (Search by Route Map)
Sapporo City Bus Lines 
Chuo Bus Sight Seeing Bus (English page)
JR Hokkaido Bus– Sapporo City Buses

Finally we come to the JR train lines in Sapporo. The JR lines are not convenient for travelling within the city itself but rather they are best used as your way station to places outside of Sapporo. JR Hokkaido uses its own prepaid card, the Kitaca. However, wherever you see a sign that Kitaca can be used, you can also use PASMO or Suica cards, which you probably already have! Unfortunately, as we most of us don’t count as foreign tourists, we can’t apply for the JR Hokkaido rail pass. However, please check out some of the great day trip itineraries that JR Hokkaido suggests here. As always, you can use handy-dandy-Hyperdia to check out times for JR trains.

Part 1-Snow Festival
Part 2-Sapporo
Part 3-Dressing for the Cold
Part 4-Asahikawa
Part 5-Otaru
Part 6-I’m on a Boat
Part 7-Asano Hotel